Posted by & filed under Abandonded Property.

Tenants Leave Abandoned Property There are many joys that come with being a landlord. Unfortunately, there are a number of downsides, as well. Every landlord hopes they’ll be able to get away with not ever having to deal with a problem tenant, but few are so lucky. Issues can range from noise violations to criminal activity, and you may have to deal with leaving notice (which we’ve discussed before) or even eviction. None of this is fun. Even after a unit’s been vacated, the ordeal may not be over. There may be damages or abandoned personal property.

It’d be easy enough if you could just get rid of anything former tenants left behind, but that’s not the way it works. Every state has its own laws and regulations for how you must deal with abandoned personal property, and you’ll want to make sure you toe the line carefully. If you don’t, you could end up with even bigger issues down the line. Before you even have to deal with this issue, it’s a good idea to do some research or consult with your legal counsel about what would be required of you if you’re ever stuck with abandoned property. That way, you’re prepared.

Once you’re familiar with the laws in your area, you can better deal with everything. It’s also important to note that the regulations can change depending on how or why the unit was vacated. If the tenant just up and left unexpectedly, you may have to operate under different rules than if they were evicted. It’s good to know the difference.

To start, a general rule of thumb is that it’s considered acceptable to get rid of any identifiable garbage. If the tenant left trash, food, empty receptacles, or similar junk that has no value, it can be discarded without consequence. When you start getting to items that are worth something, however, you must treat them differently.

It’s a good idea to invite in a third party to oversee your inventory and removal of any items as you clean out the unit. Take lots of pictures so there’s no room for argument about the condition something was in before you moved it. Make a list to ensure everything is accounted for, and move personal items to a secure storage facility. If there’s an abandoned vehicle on the premises, report it to the authorities.

These measures are all to keep you safe, legally speaking. Again, check your area’s policies as far as how long you’re required to hold personal property before it can be sold or discarded. The cost of removal and storage can be deducted from your tenant’s deposit – just be sure you make an itemized record of the charges for your and their reference. You may also be required to send notice to the tenant’s last known address informing them that unless they take action within a certain timeframe, you will be disposing of their property.

This is a general guide for dealing with abandoned personal property. If you have additional questions, contact us here at Tenant Screening Services or consult a legal professional.

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

Landlord Responsibility When tenants live on your property, there’s often a certain expectation of safety and protection for themselves and their property. They expect a safe unit to live in, functional window and door locks, a safe place to park their vehicle without risk of preventable damage, and other similar security measures. If something happens on your property – if a tenant is attacked in the parking lot, or their car’s broken into, or their unit robbed – that trust may be shattered, and you may be wondering what your responsibility is. Are you liable? Can a tenant break their lease or even sue you?

Here’s what you need to know: if an action you took (or didn’t take) left your rental property insecure, then yes, you may be liable. At the very least, your tenant should be able to securely lock any entryway into their unit. This includes functional window locks or other security measures. As for damage or robbery to vehicles, that may depend on whether or not the car is located on your property and the laws in your state.

If you have not provided a sufficiently secure unit, your tenant may be well within their rights to break their lease. Likewise, if they reported a problem to you (like a lost key or a malfunctioning lock) and you didn’t take steps to remedy the problem, then you may also be held responsible and they’ll be able to break their lease.

However, if a robbery or other crime occurred on the property because of the tenant’s actions (they left their door unlocked, for example) or due to forced entry (indicating that the unit was properly secured but was damaged in order to commit the crime), then you likely wouldn’t be considered at fault, but you would be expected to repair damage and reestablish the unit as secure as quickly as possible. For issues that occur off of your property or break-ins to a tenant’s personal property, like their car or storage unit that you do not own or control, you’re unlikely to be held responsible.

You may want to make sure you’re providing a safe, secure environment for your tenants by going above and beyond the standard call of duty. Functional locks are a necessity, but what about gated entry, or on-site security, or even alarm systems? These are all optional additional security measures, but choosing to provide them to your tenants may increase the appeal of your property. As always, the golden rule of being a good landlord is listening to and respecting your tenants’ concerns. If they’re worried about safety, consider their position carefully.

For help and information about creating an ideal tenant community, contact us!

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

Tenant NoticesAs a landlord, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with serving your tenants notices. There are many different notices that you’re required by law to use to notify people living on your property of certain events, including entering their premises, raising rates, or terminating a lease. These laws and regulations vary by state and even county, so be sure to review your local stipulations carefully.

When it comes to notices, it’s recommended that you send them by Certified Mail if you want to be sure a court of law will accept proof of delivery. Otherwise, it can be difficult to show a timeline of when you served notice to a tenant. This is a precaution – most notices are for basic services and notifications and will likely not require court action. Even so, better safe than sorry.

You’ll probably be most familiar with notices of entry, notices to comply or quit, and rental notices.

Notices of entry exist to inform your tenants that you or a service person will be entering their unit, and they must be given in advance in many states. The amount of advance notice (or if you must serve notice at all) varies by area, so make sure you know your area’s regulations. Even if there are no laws requiring it of you, it’s still considered a good rule of thumb for showing your tenants proper respect and maintaining good relations.

Notices to comply or quit usually come in the form of notifying a tenant that they must comply with a certain rental requirement or their lease will be terminated. Most often, this has to do with late rental payment or noncompliance with a policy outlined in their lease. You should give them a timeframe to remedy the situation and a clear date for when they will be expected to vacate if they do not comply.

Rental notices typically have to do with informing tenants about rental rate changes and whether or not the can renew their lease once it’s expired. The amount of notice you need to give varies, so double-check what’s expected in your area.

These are the most common notices, but there are a few others. You may want to serve notice about the sale or removal of abandoned personal property, or a notice if ownership or management of the property is changing. You may also occasionally have to serve an eviction notice due to repeated policy violation or other reason that doesn’t allow the tenant a chance to remedy the situation. Once again, this is your call, is dependent upon your lease agreement, and can vary by state.

For more information about creating and issuing professional tenant notices, contact us here at Tenant Screening Services. We’re very familiar with regulations and best practices, and are happy to help!

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

With the rise of companies like Airbnb and VRBO, there’s never been a better time to be a landlord in a desirable location. Even if rental prices are skyrocketing, tenant levels are lagging, or units are becoming more difficult to fill, if you’re in a vacation hotspot, you can always rely on travelers looking for a place to stay.

They appeal of vacation rentals is increasing for a variety of reasons. Hotels and resorts can be very expensive, and a rental apartment or condo often offers the same (or better!) accommodations for a more reasonable price. Rentals also offer a variety of central locations near attractions in more intimate settings where hotels just can’t exist or compete. Additionally, many travelers prefer something a little more private and off the beaten path, where they can prepare their own meals and enjoy time relaxing at their own pace without the hustle and bustle of resort life.

For all of these reasons, it’s a great idea to consider whether any of your properties or units can be converted to vacation rentals, either permanently or temporarily for high seasons. While these sorts of rentals offer a lot more versatility, there are a number of things to consider. Tenants will have a high turnover rate. You’ll have to decide on pricing for high and low season, as well as minimum and maximum stay for renters. Double-check your insurance coverage to make sure vacation rentals are included in your plan. It’s also advisable to consider drafting up a rental agreement, even if it’s only for a few days or a week.

It’s vital to establish a renter-landlord relationship early. It’s reasonable to list your requirements of tenants, ask for a safety deposit for cleaning or damage, and ask for the partial or full rental payment before the renters arrive. You’ll want to make sure the payment clears, since it can be a big hassle to deal with chasing down temporary vacationers after the fact, especially when they’re from out of state (or out of country!). Just because they’re on vacation doesn’t mean they can treat a rental apartment or condo as if it’s a standard hotel room. We also advise putting measures in place to keep other tenants happy – if your unit is regularly hosting rambunctious partiers that bother the permanent tenants, it may land you in hot water.

For help with planning for a vacation rental or advice on which screening services you can use to ensure you’re getting the best tenants, contact us here at Tenant Screening Center! We have tons of experience and are happy to help you out.

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

As the universities begin the age-old process of graduation and migrating the student body off campus, landlords and apartment managers will see the inevitable upswing in applications from students who want to stay in the area, either temporarily for the summer or for a full year-long lease if they’re moving off campus permanently. While approving college students may be good for you financially, especially if you live in a college-friendly area, it’s important to consider a few things before opening the floodgates.

What sort of lease are they looking for? One of the last things you need as a landlord is for your tenants to break their lease early because something else came up, especially if they might leave during a time where it’s difficult to refill the unit, like winter break or the holiday season. Make sure you discuss the length of the lease and offer students an appropriate one. This might be three months, six months, or a year, depending on when they may need to move due to semester change or graduation.

Discourage unwanted behavior with community regulations, and enforce them. If you want to make sure your tenants don’t break their lease, make the consequences for doing so fairly steep. Avoid discord with other neighbors by enforcing quiet hours or notification for gatherings over a set amount of people if necessary. Create firm guidelines about apartment care and cleaning if it’s a concern. Establish grounds for how long guests may stay and what is and isn’t considered squatting.

Review perspective tenants with background screenings and credit checks. While college students often rely on cosigners to establish credit, it’s still important to run these checks to make sure there are no surprises or criminal records involved. If you have an established relationship with the housing offices of the local colleges, it’s also prudent to touch base to learn about any past issues if possible.

Offer services that appeal to the demographic. If college students are a big piece of your tenant puzzle, it may make your units more appealing if you offer community activities and services that draw them in. Mixers, pool parties, clubhouse gatherings, and roommate mediation are a few of the ways you can appeal to the college demographic.

For more help with screening services or guidance on housing college students, please contact us here at Tenant Screening Center. We’re happy to help!

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

As always, summer is one of the very busiest times to move. For families, it may be the only time they can manage to easily transition their kids to a new home, especially if they’re switching school districts. That leaves a few high-traffic months to sell their current home, buy a new one, and make the move. It can be a stressful time, and many families choose to rent before buying.

How can landlords and apartment managers help these potential tenants and prepare for the summer rush? Here are a few of our ideas.

Do research and prep before the season starts. Use previous years’ data and current market trends to determine what sort of demand you can expect for your current rentals. Make sure you plan ahead for unit turnover and that any available units are cleaned and prepared for new tenants before the busy season starts.

Highlight your community and amenities. Many people moving over the summer are families with children, and they may need time to adjust to the new area where they’d like to live. Appeal to them by highlighting your local amenities and the community available around your rental property.

Consider what sort of background and screening you’ll need. Dealing with a higher volume of interested renters means you may also be dealing with an increased volume of paperwork. If you need help managing renter background checks and screenings to make sure you’re selecting the best tenants for your property, give your favorite Tenant Screening Center a call.

Make the choice easier. Do you have a number of open units to fill? Make choosing your property easier for potential tenants by offering specials, temporarily discounted rent, community activities, help with the move, or other similar services. You’re not only helping your new tenants settle in easier, you’re also making your property more appealing. Consider the sort of tenants you want and aim for promotions that will interest them specifically.

Offer three-month or month-to-month leases. For people looking for a temporary living solution until they can find a new home to buy, a short-term lease can be very appealing. If you’re looking to fill your units during the summer, think about offering them up as temporary housing.

Help families who are planning a summer move have an easier time of it with these easy prepping tips. You can usually expect an increase in potential rental requests over the summertime as families and others prepare to make a move or are looking to downsize. Make sure you’re prepared!

Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

I understand the temptation to skip tenant background checks. You’ve got an open unit and you have someone that looks on your application. It can seem like a good idea just get that unit rented as fast as possible and get your occupancy up. It seems like you will save both time and money by pushing forward with getting keys in the tenant’s hands.

What you need to understand however is that you are gambling with both your rental unit and your pocketbook when you do this… and it’s not a good gamble. Statistically, it’s just a matter of time until you loose. It only takes one tenant that will trash your rental unit, stiff you, or force an eviction to wipe out the “savings” from 100 other transactions that you processed successfully without a background check.

According to reports from recent years 59% of all landlords have had to deal with tenants behind on their rent. According to LSL Property Services 99,000 tenants are behind in their rent by at least 2 months. Recent years have also brought a rising number of landlords that are forced to start eviction proceedings.

Next time you think of skipping a tenant background check, remember these stats. The background check is quick and inexpensive and will greatly decrease the chance of ending up with a problem tenant.